Doctors don’t always know what causes primary liver cancer. Your risk of getting primary liver cancer is greatly increased if you have a chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection with permanent liver scarring or damage, known as cirrhosis.You are also more likely to develop primary liver cancer than other people if you:
- have scarring of, or injury to, the liver
- drink a lot of alcohol
- have certain inherited diseases, such as haemochromatosis or Wilson’s disease
- have autoimmune disorders that damage the liver.
- have diabetes
- have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease .
In developing countries, many people get liver cancer from eating food contaminated with aflatoxins - from moulds that grow on nuts, soya beans, corn, wheat and other grains.
Preventing or slowing liver cancer
Hepatitis B infections can be prevented by vaccination.
Early diagnosis of hepatitis B and hepatitis C is an important way of preventing liver cancer. If you are in close contact with someone with hepatitis B or C, have sex with them, share drug needles or are exposed to their blood or body fluids, you should be tested to make sure you are not infected.
If you have hepatitis B or C, then your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to suppress the infection and reduce your risk of getting liver cancer. Your doctor may also monitor you regularly to detect problems early.
Last reviewed: June 2017